|Benne cake, a sesame cookie steeped in African tradition.|
This benne cake from Rum Cay’s locals market was
festooned with peanuts. too,
Rum Cay, Bahamas comes across as a forgotten child, left behind to fend for itself. Except for a few Ex-Pat homes, nearly every place we saw looked as faded and threadbare as an abandoned movie set…. A storm-battered, free marina. A few shanty-bars. A restaurant (Ocean View, where the proprietor feasted upon land crabs with crunchy enthusiasm; passing up them up for a home-cooked meal wasn’t an easy choice). A take-away or two. Homes. A school.
This is not an island whose “culture” is Disneyfied for cruise ship passengers. Fact is, not many folks stop by. Rum Cay developers once had some ambitious plans for the place; now not much more than the signs remain.
When we caught the sparse local market shortly before its 4 pm close, their benne cakes caught my eye — a Bahamanian treat read about, but not as yet tried. Rum Cay seemed like the perfect place to give this local fare a try; it unapologetically reeked authentic local food. Besides, it was a mere $1.25 or thereabouts.
West African in origin, this sesame seed based cookie tasted like a buttery Bit-O-Honey, but with the soft, yielding texture so common among comfort foods.
Figuring benne cakes would make good passage-food nibblies, I found a recipe (click here for the benne cake recipe). Other than sesame seeds, the ingredients were typical cupboard stock.
Since we keep a gluten-free kitchen (aka gluten-free galley), I substituted the flour for Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free flour and the butter for coconut oil. Despite the inclusion of xanathan gum in Bob’s GF flour the neat little cookies all ran. They were shaped more like soft brittle than cookies. They tasted good, though, worthy of further experimenting, most likely with the flour substitute recipe from America’s Test Kitchen’s “How Can It Be iGluten Free” cookbook.
Sesame seeds are believed to bring good luck. Betting when it comes to making a worthy gluten-free benne cake, they will. Now that my cast is off, the time is ripe to continue expanding our gluten-free recipe repetoire, to know what hard-to-find ingredients to load up on for provisioning before we leave for the South Pacific.
This is a recent retrospective of our mid-April 2014 time in Rum Cay, BAHAMAS (N23.38 W74.50). Dilapidated or not, we were welcomed like family by Marcos and his friends at Rum Cay, one of the highlights of our time in the BAHAMAS. Click here and here and here to read about our time with Marco and at Rum Cay. We look forward to making more new friends with locals when we head into the South Pacific, setting sail in December.